Cover Reveal and Interview: The Lodge That Beaver Built by Randi Sonenshine, ill. Anne Hunter
Things I love to see in children’s books from least to greatest interest:
3. Knitting (and where the hands are positioned on the needles)
2. Ostriches (for obvious reasons)
My love of beavers actually began when I first read the Superpower Field Guide on them, care of Rachel Poliquin and Nicholas John Frith. This interest was further reinforced thanks to COVID. Since I was stuck in my home for long periods of time, I got into the habit of going for long walks in the morning before anyone else woke up. After a bit of trial and error, I found that a particularly enjoyable walk could be had if I went to the Northwestern University campus and walked along the lake. It was there that I discovered a family of beavers had taken up residence in a tiny lagoon. I spent a great deal of time watching them in the mornings. I wasn’t alone either. Local news even did a feature on them.
All this is to say that with my vested interest in all things beaver-esque, when offered the chance to talk to two women about their upcoming fall release THE HOUSE THAT BEAVER BUILT . . . well, you didn’t have to ask me twice.
Today, we’re going to reveal the cover by the same team that created the truly lovely THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT. And while I’m at it, I wouldn’t mind throwing in an interview with the both of them as well.
The description from the publisher, you say? Don’t mind if I do!
“A lush companion to The Nest That Wren Built brings to light the habits of a secretive creature with lifelike illustrations and a lyrical, informative text.
Resourceful Beaver and his family work every day to build the perfect lodge in the stream, made of branches from the shore willow and silty mud from the streambed. Secure and safe from the elements and all the forest animals who come by, the beavers sleep, play, and grow inside the dam. But come springtime’s flood, this family of beavers will move on, leaving behind the remains of the lodge that Beaver built. Gently scientific and accessible, with soft, glowing illustrations from award-winning artist Anne Hunter, this lilting, poetic companion to The Nest That Wren Built introduces young children to the engineering feat of dam-building and the life cycle of beaver families. Budding nature lovers can explore more beaver facts, a glossary, and a list of suggested resources in the back matter.”
To the interviews!
Betsy Bird: Randi, thank you so much for agreeing to come on my blog today. Now I, like a lot of people, was really blown away by your previous collaboration with Anne on THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT. Adapting “The House That Jack Built” to a STEM setting works so well for nature-based storytimes. Really, the read aloud aspects of your books are one of their real strengths. Do you read the books aloud yourself as you write them?
Randi Sonenshine: Well, first, thank you so much for the book love and for having us here, Betsy!
As for your question…a resounding YES! As I’m drafting, I am constantly reading aloud (and sometimes even singing!) words, phrases, and lines, often in different combinations and sequences. I also have others read my drafts aloud. If a reader trips over a word, phrase, or line, I know I need to dive back in for revisions. I’m listening for musicality – the way the sounds blend, complement each other, and create cadence. Just like musical notes can either create beautiful melodies and harmony, or dissolve into a discordant “hot mess” (as we say in the South!), so too can words. To me, this lyrical quality, especially with rhyming text, is as important as the story arc and characters. I want my readers not only to love the story, but also to have fun (and maybe fall in love a little) with words and the way they work together. I want them to remember the way it feels to say “reptilian charm” and “persnickety burr,” even if they don’t know those words yet…especially then, because it cultivates curiosity at the same time.
Betsy Bird: “Persnickety Burr” would also make a great character name. Anne, let me ask you some questions as well. It occurs to me that I don’t really know how you paired with Randi on the first book. When you were handed THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT as a possible project, what about it appealed to you?
Anne Hunter: I was happily matched with Randi by the publisher, Candlewick. I was raised in an avid bird watching family, am married to a man on fire about birding, and have super happy associations with the “teakettle, teakettle!” call of the Carolina Wren from my childhood in the South, so it felt pretty perfect to find this manuscript in my inbox!
BB: So, Randi, did you know when you were writing THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT that you’d be interested in doing more nature books in the same vein? Where did the inspiration come to concentrate on beavers for your next book?
RS: When I was writing THE NEST THAT WREN BUILT (in 2015), I wasn’t thinking about companion books; I just knew I had to write THAT book. A pair of wrens kept building nests in the oddest places in my garage – inside a bike helmet, a cardboard box, a cloth grocery bag on top of a stack of books, on the brim of a garden hat. This captivated me. Then one morning I woke up with the title in my head, and I couldn’t NOT write it. The inspiration for THE LODGE THAT BEAVER BUILT came almost two years later when I was researching another book idea. I started digging in, and I was fascinated by the design and construction of the lodge, as well as the impact they had on the surrounding ecosystem. It struck me that it was a perfect fit for a companion title.
BB: With that in mind, Anne, what does your collaboration with Randi look like? Do you receive the manuscripts wholly finished or do you have any give and take on the writing?
AH: Randi and I work independently and the manuscript is pretty much done when I receive it, which has worked well; we have been happily on the same page, so to speak!
BB: I can see that. Now, Randi, I have to confess to you that I am a HUGE fan of beavers. During the early days of COVID I would walk over to Northwestern University and watch a family of them there on campus. What appeals to you about these peculiar creatures? Aren’t they fascinating? First, believe it or not, I think they are adorable!
RS: I wholeheartedly agree, and Anne captured that adorable quality so beautifully in the illustrations! I imagine that watching them work and play must have been a wonderful antidote to the stress and uncertainty in those early pandemic days. There is so much to love about them, but I think what appeals to me the most is their intelligence. They are also gentle and shy and have close family bonds. Of course, their work ethic is quite impressive, too!
BB: Anne, what kind of research did you do to get the look of the beavers in this book just right? Did you see any in person? Watch any videos?
AH: I live in the north woods, surrounded by beavers! So I do see them, but not a lot, being the nocturnal and elusive creatures they are, which is amazing, given how BIG they actually are. And, I watched a lot of beaver videos- very fun! There’s a whole world of building and chewing going on out there while we sleep.
BB: Heck yeah! Randi, do you have a favorite beaver fact you like to surprise people with?
RS: There are many! One of my favorites, though, is how they store food for the winter. In the midst of all their construction work in the late summer and early fall, they are also gathering leafy branches and saplings, which they anchor in the muddy pond bottom. The cold water keeps the leaves fresh, and when winter comes, they have a nice little stash to keep them fed until spring. Even if the pond freezes, they can access these ingenious pantries via secret underwater tunnels from their lodges. How cool is that???
BB: So cool! That’s actually my favorite fact about them too. Right after the one about how they create their own canals to transport trees. Anne, for your part, how did creating art for this book differ from WREN? Was there anything that surprised you along the way?
AH: There was not a big difference…a bit more research to get the architecture of the lodge right, and the perspective was pulled back a bit from the detailed close ups of the wren nest. More landscape and less twigs.
BB: Randi, tell me the truth. Is this the last in the series or can we hope to see more books like these in the future? Can you say?
RS: Happily, there will be at least one more. In 2024, a sneaky cephalopod will join Wren and Beaver when Candlewick releases THE DEN THAT OCTOPUS BUILT! Talk about a fascinating creature! Like the others, I had so much fun researching and writing the text, and I can’t wait to see what ocean-y magic Anne creates with her illustrations!
BB: Marvelous. Anne, to round us off, what are you up to next?
AH: I just finished two sequels to WHERE’S BABY? which will be coming out with Tundra Books. And I am, as we speak, immersed in coral reef research for Randi’s next book, about octopuses! Another amazing hidden world and a great undersea armchair vacation from the snowy late winter here!
So are you ready? Here’s that cover you’ve been waiting for:
THE HOUSE THAT BEAVER BUILT is on shelves everywhere Sep 27, 2022. Thanks to Tracy Miracle and the folks at Candlewick for setting this interview up. Thanks too to Randi Sonenshine and Anne Hunter for taking the time to answer my questions.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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